Art, Art History, Art Museums

Restored Rubens Masterpiece Goes Back on Public View at The Courtauld Gallery reports:
The newly-conserved masterpiece, Cain Slaying Abel, by Sir Peter Paul Rubens went back on public display at The Courtauld Gallery today. The magnificent painting, widely considered to be one of the most important in the Gallery’s world-class collection of works by Rubens, has been restored as part of the Bank of America Art Conservation Project which was launched in 2010.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Cain slaying Abel, 1608-1609, after treatment. Oil on oak panel , 131.2 x 94.2 cm © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

Cain Slaying Abel entered The Courtauld Gallery as part of Count Antoine Seilern’s Princes Gate Bequest in 1978. Its state of preservation, with warped panels, splitting joins, scratches, uneven surface with areas of paint loss and yellowed and opaque varnish, has been a long-standing concern. The oak panel showed problems at the joins between the planks, and earlier attempts to rejoin the panel had left a stepped profile and the join at the centre had started to fail resulting in the paint surface beginning to blister. At some point during the 19th century, a lattice of wood, known as a cradle, was applied to the reverse of the panel. This was intended to prevent the planks from moving, but had caused stress to the panel support and had also attracted woodworm.

The eleven-month procedure was undertaken by conservators Kate Stonor and Clare Richardson in the Department of Conservation and Technology of The Courtauld Institute of Art. The cradle was removed, a delicate operation in itself; the small woodworm holes were filled with cellulose fibres; parts of earlier restorations which had compromised the painting were carefully removed, as was the yellowed varnish which disfigured the subtly modelled cool tones of the landscape in the background. They also had to find precise matches for the pigments and glazes where restoration was needed in order to stabilise the painting for the next hundred years.  Read the entire article.

The following slideshow shows details of the restoration.

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